Disappearing dishwasher

This is the first in a series of occasional posts related to my book about kitchens, to be published in 2020 by Lost Art Press.

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The large door to the right of the sink hides a dishwasher. Instead of using the toekick system recommended by the manufacturer, I made a removable toekick that’s fully integrated into the cabinet design.

Contemporary appliances are the bane of my life (or at least, one of the banes). Their designs, specs, and modes of installation are constantly changing, with increasing complexity as manufacturers swap the simplicity of the analog universe for the obtuseness of the digital.

My latest challenge involved fabricating a panel for a client’s new dishwasher. The appliance came with a poster-size sheet of instructions that featured numerous graphics and few words. Unlike most of the dishwasher doors I have fitted with decorative panels in the past, which had a metal framework or flange to hold the panel, the blank grey plastic front of this one offered no clue as to how I should proceed. Try as I might, I could not make sense of the “instructions.” So I called the manufacturer, expecting a bit of help. This was no naive expectation; over the years I’ve received invaluable assistance from Oneida, BlumZinsser, LaCanche, BEST, and SawStop, to name just a few, and I expected the same from this internationally respected company, whose dishwashers are prized for their efficient, quiet operation.

Instead, the customer service person I reached said the design and installation of the panel were the responsibility of the kitchen designer and cabinetmaker. “I am the designer and cabinetmaker,” I replied, “and I can’t make sense of the instructions, so I am trying to get help.” She clearly did not know how the panel should be made or installed and insisted there was no technical department that could help. (When I told her I was surprised to find that her company offered no assistance to professionals, she replied “I’m not taking nothin’ from you.” I thought I called the “customer service” number?) At least she turned away for a moment to consult a colleague, who gave her the acceptable range of width and height dimensions, which was a start. I built the panel and delivered it to the jobsite, where it sat for days while I completed the straightforward aspects of the job.

In the end, my client’s builder figured out how the panel should be attached. Thanks to his help, it went on easily.

That left the toekick. This dishwasher comes with a prosaic metal panel you can affix at the bottom to hide the guts. Alternatively, you can use the pair of clips provided to affix your own toekick. In both cases, the toekick would have been recessed far more deeply than the cabinets’ toekicks, which I installed closer to the faces than customary to hide the unfinished section of subfloor the builder had installed to bring the level of the original mid-century floor up to that of the oak my client had put in several years ago.

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Ideally, new cabinets and appliances are installed on a floor that runs across the room–or at least covers the first several inches behind the plane of the cabinets’ faces. This job did not allow for that convenience.

To make the toekick appear seamless with the surrounding cabinets, I made a pair of returns, each a simple “L” shape. The wider section would be attached to the back face of the cabinet stile (or “leg”) at each side of the dishwasher opening and painted to match the cabinets. The short part of the “L” would extend inward just enough to support the toekick.

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The L-shaped returns that would support the painted toekick (the blue piece in front)

Dishwashers must be able to be pulled out of their opening in case they need repair, so it’s important to make the toekick removable. It’s also essential to ensure you have sufficient width between the toekick supports to pull the appliance out. I allowed about 1/8″ on each side. I attach dishwasher toekicks with Velcro, which is available in self-adhesive strips from many hardware stores; cut the strips to width so that they fit the short section of the L-shaped support.

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A thin strip of Velcro goes on the back of the kick at each end.

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When installed, the toekick appears to be part of the cabinetry. Yes, I could have incorporated the little cove detail that appears on the rest of the cabinets, but the dishwasher door is clearly distinct from the other cabinets by virtue of its scale and the vertical divider. Adding the cove detail would look excessively fussy, in my opinion.

–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work

Sources
Dishwasher: Bosch
Bin pulls and latches:Rejuvenation
Cabinet paint: Benjamin Moore oil-based Satin Impervo
Hardwood lumber and plywood: Frank Miller Lumber
Marble backsplash tile: Lowe’s
Sink: Whitehaven apron sink by Kohler
Counters: Hanstone Quartz from Quality Surfaces

6 responses to “Disappearing dishwasher

  1. Marc Stonestreet

    I knew it was going to be a Bosch.

    • Great dishwashers, from what I hear. But “customer service”? My client called them with a question about a blinking read-out, and after about 15 minutes of waiting/back-and-forth, she ended up with nothing. If I were their customer, I would contact someone higher up to say they need to improve their “service,” but I’m already overwhelmed by other demands (some of them involving customer service or lack thereof).

  2. Marc beat me to the punch, I was going to say exactly the same thing.

    Looking forward to your new book.

  3. I gave up on customer service a long time ago. As Ron Swanson said long ago when approached by a Home Depot employee “I know more than you”. The only recourse most of the time nowadays is the Internet, stupid as it sounds, it’s usually much more useful (annd way faster) than customer service reps that typically haven’t a clue about the products they are supposed to be supporting. I do like our Bosch dishwasher though, it’s is light years better than the Maytag we have.

    My vote though, if I didn’t have kids………no dishwasher, I hate them.

  4. I hear you, Father John. I *am* the dishwasher in our household, not because of my gender, but because I enjoy the water (and love the satisfaction of transforming chaos into order). More to the point of this post, however, I’ve found the customer and technical service departments at so many firms to be just the ticket when I have a question about an appliance or a machine in the shop. So it was especially disappointing to learn that Bosch appears not to offer any way of connecting building-industry professionals with its technical service staff, who would (presumably) be thoroughly knowledgeable about the company’s products, in contrast to those on the front end who, at least in this case, just answer the phone.

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